When you get a sufficient amount of sleep each night, practically every aspect of your life improves.
If you’re not getting the right amount of sleep each night (7-9 hours for most seniors), or if your sleep quality is poor (constantly tossing and turning or waking up throughout the night), you’re missing out on a ton of health benefits.
Don’t miss these 5 important steps you can start taking today to boost your sleep quantity and quality.
Stick to a Schedule
One of the best things you can do to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep is to establish and stick to a consistent sleep schedule.
What does this entail?
- Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day (even on the weekends)
- Limiting naps to 15-20 minutes and only napping during the late morning or early afternoon
- Skipping the snooze button (ideally, you should be able to wake up without an alarm at all)
Don’t dramatically change your routine, either. If you typically go to bed at midnight, move back to 11:45 for a few nights, then 11:30, and so on.
Decrease Your Light Exposure
Your body naturally produces a hormone called melatonin, which is responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycles. The brain’s melatonin production increases when it’s dark to help you feel tired and decreases when it’s light out to help you stay alert.
If you’re exposing yourself to a lot of light before bed (via cell phone or television screens, for example), you’re throwing off your body’s melatonin production.
Some things you can do to regulate your light exposure at night include:
- Avoid screens (or at least turn the brightness down) 1-2 hours before you head to bed
- Don’t read on backlit devices
- Keep your bedroom as dark as possible with heavy curtains or a sleep mask. Cover up electronics as well so the light from the screen doesn’t wake you up.
- Avoid turning on the lights if you wake up during the night (use a dim nightlight or small flashlight instead)
Studies have found that, in addition to helping you maintain a healthy weight, getting regular exercise can also improve your quality of sleep.
People who exercise on a regular basis tend to sleep better at night and feel more alert throughout the day.
The more vigorous the exercise, the better the sleep benefits. However, even small amounts of walking throughout the day can also improve your sleep quality.
The only caveat is to avoid exercising too close to bedtime. This can leave you feeling too wired. Finish any moderate to vigorous workouts at least three hours before you plan to head to bed.
Upgrade Your Sleep Environment
Make your bedroom a haven to promote high-quality sleep. Some steps you can take include:
- Wear earplugs or install a fan or sound machine to block out outside noise
- Keep your room cool (approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Invest in a more comfortable mattress or mattress topper to avoid tossing and turning during the night
You may also want to invest in a mattress protector, especially if you struggle with allergies or asthma. Millions of people are allergic to the dust mites that are commonly found in beds, but the best mattress protectors are hypoallergenic and will help prevent reactions that could be keeping you up at night.
Pay Attention to Your Diet
The foods and drinks you consume throughout the day also have a big impact on your ability to fall asleep at night. Some things to try if you’re experiencing poor sleep include:
- Limit caffeine and nicotine consumption, especially in the afternoon and evening
- Eat dinner earlier in the evening and avoid large, rich meals within two hours of your bedtime
- Avoid alcohol before bed
- Don’t drink too many liquids before bed (this can cause frequent trips to the bathroom)
- Avoid sugary foods and refined carbohydrates, which have been shown to negatively affect sleep
If you’re having a tough time falling or staying asleep at night, give these tips a try today. Even a simple change like avoiding screens in the evening can have a huge impact.